UUCA: Protect the students or the Opposite?
Akta Universiti dan Kolej Universiti (AUKU 1971) or University and University College Act 1971 (UUCA) has been also a talk about topic at least on 2018. Why this topic is important for you to know? Let’s find out more about UUCA.
UUCA is an act that is partly under the authority of the Ministry of Education. Although the original idea was to control the administration and to operate university orderly. But the UUCA policy actually prevent the involvement of students with political parties, an amalgamation of student’s bodies. Which on a shortened note, the government actually build a barrier for students so their voice couldn’t be heard. And the main thing they have to do is just “studying”.
The UUCA has undergone three facelifts, in 1975, 1983, and 1996. The 1975 amendments were the most stringent.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, the student movement yielded considerable power, as evident in the May 1968 student protests in Paris, which toppled the de Gaulle government. From its origins in the West, the global phenomenon soon moved eastwards.
In Malaysia, students held non-partisan rallies to educate the public on their political rights in 1969 because at the same time is the election year, they wanted the people to know they could have a say through the ballot. The UUCA was enacted to curb student political groups in an era when student activism was widespread according to Prof. James Chin from Monash University Malaysia. However, the original law was not stringent.
“It’s a business, as usual, We freely held our Wednesday night debates, as well as forums on local and international issues”, said Hishammudin Rais (Former University Malaysia (UM) student leader, political and social activist, and also Malaysian film director).
1975 was a turning point for students due to the changes in UUCA and the first time section 15 was introduced.
This originated from high political and social awareness among universities, the demolition of the homes in Tasik Utara in Johor, which motivated Singaporean and Malaysian students (especially UM) to gather at Bendahara Hill and hold protests for 3 days. As a result, the UM student association was banned but the protests continued.
Strict penalties, including suspension or expulsion from the university, will be meted out against dissenting students.
On 2012, UUCA has been amended again, this time students are allowed to join political parties, but not on campus! It’s being said that it will be unsuitable to the interest and might interrupt the wellbeing of students or the university.
Under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA), article 15 paragraph (1) and (2) point a,b,c:
15. (1) Subject to subsection (2), a student of the University may become a member of any society, organization, body or group of persons, whether in or outside Malaysia, including any political party.
(2) A student of the University shall not—
(a) Become a member of any political of any unlawful society, organization, body or group of persons, whether in or outside Malaysia;
(b) Become a member of any society, organization, body or group of persons, not being a political party, which the Board determines to be unsuitable to the interest and wellbeing of the students or the University; or
(c) Be involved in political party activities within the Campus
Former Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin stated “The type of on-campus organization to be forbidden will be determined by individual universities along with the penalties for breaching the provision of the act that would also be in the hands of the universities, which would use their internal disciplinary procedures”.
Which mean university has the power to control students and might be, there still influenced from the government as well. Half-hearted amendment actually. It’s not fully freedom that government gives the student in other words student are still afraid to voice out their criticism to the government because they might be expelled from the university.
This makes students or the youth lose their interest in politics.
“Universities, as with all institutions of higher learning, must, as one of their primary duties, embrace and espouse the development of critical thinking by their students and the encouragement of robust debate. This is vital to ensure a continuous stream of thinking Malaysians who are able to advance and build our nation” said Lim Chee Wee, President of The Malaysian Bar Council.
December 2018, the Lower House passes the amendment of UUCA with more freedom given to the students. Now universities could invite politician from both sides of the divide to give a talk on campus upon the approval of the vice-chancellor, the government will no longer interfere in the management of universities and dictate how their decision related to political activities should be, and we urged students to utilize this freedom with senses of responsibility, said former Education Minister Maszlee Malik.
The UUCA supposed to be replaced in 2020, according to former Education Minister. 'Put your trust in us and together we can carry out more reform on the private and public higher learning sector", he said.
But everything changes so fast, like a snap of a finger. Malaysia Political environment changes, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad resign on 24 February 2020, 2 weeks after his statement that "The Ministry of Education (MOE) is intensifying effort to repeal UUCA and replace it with better and more comprehensive law."
It's a pity that it was so close that the UUCA could be repealed or at least be amended with better law that gives students education freedom, gives them freedom to express their thought.
August 2020, a group of student leaders called higher education minister to open discussion with them on the abolishment of UUCA. They urge the ministry to come back and discuss with stakeholders such as student bodies, academics, NGOs to find ways to resolve this.
But up until now, we haven't found any news update regarding the UUCA whether it will be amended or abolished.
*Written by Nesya Tirtayana.
**Nesya Tirtayana is a communication officer for FNF Malaysia